For as long as I can remember as a child and teen I was involved in sports. I played competitive travel baseball, football, and hockey growing up and I was a three-sport athlete in high school. Sports were my life and I lived for competition. I don't really tell this story often but when I watch a professional athlete take to the podium and announce their retirement I can relate to the emotions they are going through and often times wonder if they are experiencing the same feelings I had as a young adult when my sports life was over. No, I was not a professional athlete, however I do believe that the experience of saying goodbye is probably similar.
I can vividly remember my last time playing sports and the deep loss that occurred for years afterward. My last year in highschool we were playing for the league championship in hockey and it was a best of 3 series. The series went to game 3 and we won. We celebrated in the locker room and by teammate's houses, however there was this lingering anxiety in my stomach, knowing that my sports days were over. . .
After highschool I worked full time at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange(CME), which is a futures trading exchange, and I also was going to college full time at night. I remember having feelings of deep loss because the competition and excitement of sports were no longer in my life. I felt like there was a hole in my being and part of me was missing. Nobody prepared me for this and I didn't talk to anyone about it. Depression was definitely setting in and at the time I don't really think I knew why.
I remember having these thoughts:
"This is what life is all about? Get a job, work everyday, go home and do it all over again? This isn't fun, this is terrible!"
I was used to being graded on the sports field by my level of accomplishments which could so easily be defined via statistics and game performance and now I was in an "adult" world where things are not so black and white.
I was completely lost and sad.
For multiple years after my retirement from sports I drowned these feelings of loss in drugs and alcohol. There was a hole in my heart. I loved competition and the level of competition that I was used to did not translate into the business world.
Fortunately, over the next 20 years luck was on my side. . .
I was a very successful trader and I was able to retire from the business world before I reached the age of 40, however, this time around retirement was nothing like the loss felt 20 years prior when I had to say goodbye to my sports career.
Today, when I watch great athletes give their retirement speeches I certainly can relate to the void they are feeling. There is a definite grieving period and a disorientation that comes with this experience. Saying goodbye to something that one loves is never an easy task and sports were definitely one of the biggest hurdles in my lifetime.